Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Animals

By Ray Bradbury


Think back to when you were a little kid… What were some things you loved? We're guessing animals is somewhere on the list. Now think about what you might have thought was awesome if you didn't have a digitized version of every video ever made at your fingertips at all times. Seeing a film of a cheetah or gazelle running would have been a real treat, yeah? Well, if you were a kid in 1928, it probably would have been about a million times that.

Doug and Tom love animals, too, and they show up throughout Dandelion Wine. When Doug has his big "I'm alive!" epiphany in Chapter 2, we get: "Doug, eyes shut, saw spotted leopards pad in the dark." And when he opens his eyes, "The leopards trotted soundlessly off through darker lands where eyeballs could not turn to follow." It's as if the biggest, fastest, scariest thing he can imagine is chasing him—because that's what it feels like his epiphany is doing.

But after something as big as being slammed in the head with your own mortality, leopards don't seem so scary anymore. So all that's left for them to do is wander back home to leopard-land. Cool, right? And it indicates a shift in our main man from childhood toward adulthood. Because throughout this book, animals are associated with children—so when the leopards stalk off, well, we know Doug's grown-up a bit in his understanding.

We see a lot more animals—maybe more than anywhere else in the book—in the chapter about the shoes. The night Doug asks his dad to buy them for him and his dad says no, "In his dreams, he heard a rabbit running running running in the deep warm grass." Obviously he's imagining being as fast as a leopard or rabbit, which seems reasonable for a kid in 1928 whose entire concept of fast things is a Green Machine that goes fifteen miles per hour.

But then, when Doug goes to talk to Mr. Sanderson about hooking him up with some of those sweet sneaks, Mr. Sanderson starts seeing critters, too. When Doug asks how the shoes feel, Mr. Sanderson's answer is, "Antelopes? Gazelles?" In fact, even after Doug leaves, the narrator tells us:

Mr. Sanderson stood in the sun-blazed door, listening. From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound. Beautiful creatures leaping under the sky, gone through brush, under trees, away, and only the soft echo their running left behind.

Bradbury's obviously equating childhood with wild(er)ness. Only a young person has the energy level of a rabbit or the pure, wild freedom of a leopard, antelope, or gazelle—and perhaps because of this, children's daydreams and games are often filled with animals. When you're a child, you have all the time, energy, and health in the world to run around exploring and hanging out with your imagination.

Adults, however—at least in Dandelion Wine—get sick, have families, and even get jobs in Wisconsin like John Huff's dad. Time and again, grown-ups have to be responsible, spending their time dealing with life in practical ways.

So why all the National Geographic action from an author associated with sci-fi and fantasy? This about the time this book is set: 1928. The first satellite wouldn't be launched into space for nearly thirty years at this point. So is makes sense that when Doug and Mr. Sanderson compare sneakers to something fast, their memory banks pull up rabbits, antelopes, and gazelles, not spaceships.

In referencing animals, then, Bradbury keeps us grounded in the time period in which the book takes place—one in which machines are burgeoning wonders and not on everyone's radar. The animal imagery, then, is a shout-out to the times. And to this end, we contemporary readers are just as awed when machines appear in Green Town as the residents are. We go running alongside Doug to Mr. Auffmann's garage to see the big orange box that will take us to Paris, marveling at how fast we are in the quick-like-a-rabbit sneakers of our imaginations.

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